PM seeks civil servants’ help over reforms

15 Sep 2018


ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses civil servants at PM Office on Friday.—INP
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses civil servants at PM Office on Friday.—INP

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has sought support from the bureaucracy in implementing his reforms agenda, promising a massive turnaround in their lives as well as in the country within two years.

Addressing a gathering of civil servants here on Friday, Mr Khan vowed to protect them from “political influence”, asking them to help improve governance and be patient for two years.

Whatever policies the government made, there would be no results if they were not implemented by “the executive arm”, he said.

“We don’t have money to run the government,” the prime minister said, adding that no government in the past had ever inherited such a major economic crisis. “Who else can know this better than you who always remain part of government,” Mr Khan said.

The prime minister criticised the past rulers for their faulty projects that according to him had put the country under a heavy debt. The country needed to get out of this “debt trap”, he said, adding that good and bad cycles came in the lives of the nation.

Holds out assurance NAB will not ‘humiliate’ them during probe

Mr Khan also assured the bureaucrats that they would get due respect and every effort would be made that they experienced no humiliation while facing inquiries during the accountability process. “Accountability is our cornerstone and without it we cannot progress. Corruption is our biggest issue,” he said, adding that those who committed corruption actually destroyed the institutions. “If there is transparency in the West, it isn’t because they are more honest: it is because their institutions are strong,” he said.

He said he had received some complaints from the bureaucracy and told the National Accountability Bureau chairman to hold investigations, “but do not humiliate or insult them and do it subtly”.

The prime minister presented Singapore as a model, saying they had a knowledge economy. Asking the bureaucrats to take chances, he said the government would protect them if they committed mistakes. He said only those committed mistakes who took chances. “I give you my assurance that if you commit any mistake, I will stand with you,” he vowed.

“Whatever your political affiliation, whether you like Imran Khan and the PTI or not, this doesn’t concern me. I am only concerned with your performance. If you perform for my country, we will stand with you and help you,” he added.

The prime minister said that he had witnessed the “degeneration” of the civil services over time due to political interference, and wanted to take it to the position where it was in the 1960s. “I assure you that we will protect our bureaucracy from political pressure,” he reiterated.

Salaries of bureaucrats

He acknowledged that the salaries of bureaucrats were low and they were facing financial issues. “I was reading that in 1935 a commissioner with his salary could buy 70 tolas of gold. My father, who was a government engineer in the 1970s, could buy a car with one month’s salary,” he said. Since the salaries and remunerations were good in the past, the bureaucrats could not get tempted, he added.

He expressed the hope that the country would soon come out of this downward cycle and become the destination for investment and tourism through good governance.

At this stage, Mr Khan again cited the example of Singapore. “I was reading about the Singapore model. They give their civil servants and even ministers the best salaries so that they wouldn’t have any temptation to make money in other ways,” he said.

“I recognise that this is a difficult time, inflation is high, and your salaries don’t match your qualifications. But if you decide to make it through the next two years — you can write it down, that if we fix our governance in these two years — there will be so much money in this country,” he added.

“I will isolate you from political pressure and will not allow you to be humiliated during the process of accountability. I only want that you support this ambitious reforms programme fully. It is not for me, it is for our children,” he added.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2018